Brazilian Felipe Massa won Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix for Ferrari and lifted himself into the midst of a close four-way scrap for this year’s drivers’ world championship.
Massa, 25, delivered a near-flawless performance for the Italian team to secure his second victory in succession and the fourth of his career.
But as the man from Sao Paulo celebrated his dominant triumph, it was Englishman Lewis Hamilton of McLaren-Mercedes who had more to celebrate about.
Hamilton reeled off his fourth consecutive podium position since his debut in Australia, finishing 6.7 seconds behind Massa and 10.6 seconds ahead of his teammate and local hero Fernando Alonso.
Hamilton now leads the drivers title race with 30 points, ahead of Alonso on 28, Massa on 27 and Finn Kimi Raikkonen, who retired on the 10th lap with a mechanical problem, on 22.
In Sunday’s unmemorable race, mostly a battle of attrition that saw several retirements, Poland’s Robert Kubica finished fourth in his BMW Sauber, Briton David Coulthard fifth for Red Bull and German Nico Rosberg sixth for BMW.
It was a first points-scoring finish of the season for both Coulthard and Sato.
On another perfect spring day in Catalunya, the air temperature was 30 degrees Celsius and the track temperature was 48 when the race began. An aborted start, caused when Italian Jarno Trulli stalled his Toyota on the grid, caused a re-start to be arranged and another formation lap.
Massa made an excellent start, sweeping away from his third successive pole position to take the lead into the first corner, closely followed by Alonso.
Massa was out in front ahead of Hamilton after 26 laps with an advantage of more than ten seconds. By then, Raikkonen had been forced to retire in his Ferrari, his red car limping back to the team garage.
Massa again went ahead of Hamilton, and the Brazilian pitted again, for a second time, after 42 laps.
Again, Hamilton took over the lead until he came in four laps later.
Once the order resettled, when Alonso pitted after 48 laps from running second, it was Massa back in front with a lead of 6.4 seconds ahead of the Spaniard and then Hamilton. Alonso took third place.
This left Massa in front with 15 laps remaining, ahead of Hamilton by 11.5 seconds and a further 15 seconds advantage over Alonso.
Alonso cries foul
Disappointed and angry double world champion Fernando Alonso accused triumphant Brazilian Felipe Massa of dangerous driving.
Alonso blamed Massa for an incident in the opening corner of the race. “I thought I was in front of him in the first corner and he didn’t think so, and we touched each other. It was dangerous and we were lucky to finish,” he said.
Massa said, “It was very tight. It was very close for both of us in the first corner. We touched, it was not too strong. I was on the inside and I don’t understand what he means. He was more aggressive than me.”